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Soil-forming processes and soil development rates are compared and contrasted on glacial deposits in two adjacent and coeval valleys of the Quartermain Mountains, which are important because they display Miocene glacial Stratigraphy and some of the oldest landforms in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. More than 100 soil profiles were examined on seven drift sheets ranging from 115 000 to greater than 11.3 million years in age in Beacon Valley and Arena Valley. Although the two valleys contain drifts of similar age, they differ markedly in ice content of the substrate. Whereas Arena Valley generally has ‘dry-frozen’ permafrost in the upper 1 m and minimal patterned ground, Beacon Valley contains massive ice buried by glacial drift and ice cored rock glaciers and has ice-cemented perma-frost in the upper 1 m and considerable associated patterned ground. Arena Valley soils have twice the rate of profile salt accumulation than Beacon Valley soils, because of lower available soil water and minimal cryoturbation. The following soil properties increase with age in both valleys: weathering stage, morphogenetic salt stage, thickness of the salt pan, the quantity of profile salts, electrical conductivity of the horizon of maximum salt enrichment, and depth of staining. Whereas soils less than 200 000 years and older soils derived from sandstone-rich ground moraine are Typic Anhyorthels and Anhyturbels, soils of early Quaternary and older age, particularly on dolerite-rich drifts, are Petronitric Anhyorthels. Arena Valley has the highest pedodiversity recorded in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The soils of the Quartermain Mountains are the only soils in the McMurdo Dry Valleys known to contain abundant nitrates.
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Keywords: McMurdo Dry Valleys; nitrates; salt accumulation; soil chronosequence; soil formation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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